Alibaba Cloud Service Mesh (ASM) is a fully managed service mesh platform. ASM is compatible with open source Istio. ASM allows you to manage services in a simplified manner. For example, you can use ASM to route and split inter-service traffic, secure inter-service communication with authentication, and observe the behavior of services in meshes. This greatly reduces your workload in development and O&M.

Service architecture

The following figure shows the architecture of ASM.

ASM architecture

ASM integrates and manages all components on the Istio control plane to simplify your use of ASM. This way, you can focus on application development and deployment. In addition, ASM is compatible with open source Istio. You can use declarative parameters to define flexible routing rules, and centrally manage traffic between services in a mesh.

An ASM instance with the managed control plane supports application services from multiple Kubernetes clusters or application services that are run in pods of Elastic Container Instance. You can also deploy non-Kubernetes services, such as services that run on VMs or bare metal hosts, into the same service mesh.

Functions and features

ASM builds managed and unified service mesh capabilities in core scenarios, such as hybrid cloud, multi-cloud, multi-cluster, and non-containerized application migration. ASM provides the following benefits:

  • Centralized management mode

    ASM manages application services that run in managed, dedicated, and serverless clusters of Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK) and registered clusters in hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments in a centralized manner. This provides unified observability and throttling for application services.

  • Centralized traffic management

    ASM centrally manages the traffic between application services that are deployed in a hybrid environment in which containers and virtual machines coexist.

  • Managed core components of the control plane

    ASM manages core components of the Istio control plane. This helps minimize your resource overhead and O&M costs.

Instance editions

ASM provides four editions of instances: Standard Edition, Premium Edition, Enterprise Edition, and Ultimate Edition. Standard Edition is a free edition, and the other editions are commercial editions. Premium Edition, Enterprise Edition, and Ultimate Edition extend the features of Standard Edition to enhance multi-protocol support and dynamic extension capabilities, provide fine-grained service governance, and improve the zero-trust security system. In addition, the three commercial editions enhance performance, provide better support for large-scale clusters, and simplify the use of ASM instances in production environments. Premium Edition, Enterprise Edition, and Ultimate Edition are applicable to scenarios in which you require cross-language interoperability and fine-grained service governance and want to apply the service mesh technology in production environments on a large scale.

You can select the edition that you require based on the following feature comparison.
Note ASM allows you to update your ASM instances. For more information, see Update the instance type of an ASM instance.
Feature Standard Edition Premium Edition Enterprise Edition Ultimate Edition
Core features of the open source Istio, such as traffic routing, traffic governance, observability, and security ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Centralized management of ACK clusters, Serverless Kubernetes (ASK) clusters, clusters deployed on Elastic Compute Service (ECS) instances, and Kubernetes clusters that are not on Alibaba Cloud ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Visualized console ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Envoy filter marketplace ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Selective service discovery and automatic sidecar recommendation based on access log analysis for configuration optimization ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Local throttling ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Mesh diagnosis ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Connection to a service registry ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
TLS acceleration based on Multi-Buffer ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Advanced features of ASM gateways ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Support for the Dubbo protocol ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Graceful start and shutdown of services ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
End-to-End tag-based routing ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Application High Availability Service (AHAS) for traffic protection ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Support for Spring Cloud services ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Supported scale We recommend that you use this edition if you have a maximum of 50 pods in an ASM instance. We recommend that you do not use this edition in production environments. You can use this edition if you have a maximum of 100 pods in an ASM instance. You can use this edition if you have a maximum of 1,000 pods in an ASM instance. You can use this edition if you have a maximum of 10,000 pods in an ASM instance.